One of the Most Fake Photos of All Time: The LBJ Swearing-In Ceremony

So last night somebody posted this famous pic to Reddit’s conspiracy subreddit with the catchy title “One of the most disgusting photos of all time:”

redditpic

Here was his comment to go along with the picture:

“This photograph was taken on Air Force One. Immediately after being sworn in as the 36th president in a coup, LBJ, standing next to Jackie Kennedy (with her husband’s blood still on her dress), turns to his long-time friend, Texas congressman Albert Thomas and smiles, as Thomas returns a wink. And a smirk.

The White House photographer who took this photo, Cecil Stoughton, has stated he feels as if this photograph is ‘sinister.'”

Well, if by “sinister” he meant “fake,” then I agree. This is one of the most fake photos, or as I like to say, fauxtos, of all time. And here’s why.

Now before we take a closer look at that photo, I want to look at some other pictures that come from LBJ’s swearing-in just moments before. I got all of these off the official John F. Kennedy Presidential Library website.

Pic 1 (top) and Pic 2 (bottom):

swearing-in-1

swearing-in-2

So one thing to notice here is that LBJ and Jackie’s faces look identical both pics. Same for Ladybird Johnson, Congressman Al Thomas and the guy crouching down next to him. In fact at first glance pic 2 looks like an identical but cropped version of pic 1. But if you look very carefully you can see some interesting discrepancies:

  1. The microphone is in a different position in each pic.
  2. In the top pic, much more of Ladybird Johnson’s face is blocked by LBJ’s arm than in pic 2.
  3. Some of the people in the background are looking in different directions in both pics: notice especially the woman standing behind Al Thomas and the two men standing behind Jackie and to the right. One of them is almost completely cropped but you can still see his eye is pointed in a different direction.
  4. The reflection off the glass panes on the ceiling are subtly different in each pic. The top pic is cropped, so we can’t see everything, but we can see the door frame, which is reflected at slightly different angles in each pic. Also notice on the right side of the glass pane, the crown of the head is reflected in two panes in pic 2 but only in one pane in pic 3.

I suppose you could argue that the two pics were taken moments apart with the cameraman slightly changing his position between the two. Bu if this was due to the cameraman moving, then we would expect a slight change in the angles of LBJ and Jackie (and Thomas and Ladybird), but to my eye those are exactly the same pictures of them from exactly the same angles — the angle of the cameraman seems not to have changed AT ALL. (I believe if Mark did a photoshop overlay of their faces, he would indeed find they match up at the same exact angle.) Also, notice the shadow cast from the judge signing in LBJ onto Ladybird Johnson’s dress. It’s exactly the same in both pics, which would not be the case if the cameraman moved. Thus, while the background images may be explained due to camera movement, they are out of step with the figures in the foreground. Clear signs of a paste-up or photomontage.

Here is more evidence that these pictures have been doctored:

swearing-in-lights-on

Woah! Did somebody suddenly turn the lights on? You might say that, yes, in the moments when LBJ is being sworn in (the audio recording of it lasts about 30 seconds), somebody decided to turn on the lights. But if you look at the full series of pictures on the JFK library website, there appears to be no continuity with the lights. In some pics they appear to be turned on before the swearing in. For example this one:

before-pic-with-lights

This one is described as “Officials gather inside Air Force One for the swearing-in of President Lyndon B. Johnson.” And you can see here that the judge appears to be studying the oath, preparing for the signing in. We also don’t see Jackie  or Al Thomas in this picture, and the general standing between LBJ and the judge (where Al Thomas will be) is nowhere to be seen in later pics. So we have many indications that this was taken before the swearing-in, and the lights are all on. So what, was JFK Jr. in the back playing around with the light switch?

OK, one more bad fauxtomontage before we get back to the picture that started us off:

lbj-cut-out

Come on! Look at that thick white line on the top left of his head. That’s clear, unambiguous indication this is a cut-out. And that’s an official picture in the JFK library! But also look at the line separating him and Ladybird. Where is his arm? Is he holding it behind his back. Why is the picture of Ladybird sharp and in focus whereas LBJ is grainy and out of focus?  Look how big his head looks relative to his body. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The sizes, lighting, and focus in this picture are all out of whack.

OK, now the famous winking picture, also taken from the library:

winking-pic

First off, what is that weird bright spot above Al Thomas’s his head and the stringy line next to Jackie? Suggestive of fudgery, but not definitive evidence. There are really two big giveaways in this picture: the lighting and the focus. Notice that LBJ, Ladybird and Thomas all have shadows down the left side of their faces. But notice that Jackie does not. Her nose and chin are brightly lit. I suppose you could say that’s because she’s standing directly under the light whereas they are off to the side. And that might explain it. Except then look at the previous picture with LBJ’s obviously pasted-in head. There LBJ and Ladybird are leaning in directly under the light, and they are casting more-or-less sensible shadows across the left sides of their faces. But even though her head is tilted down and her big hair should be casting some kind of shadow across the front of her face, it’s not. In fact, the more I look at those two pictures, the more it seems like it’s the exact same picture of Jackie, although the angle of her head is a bit different in each of them. (Mark, how about an overlay after correcting for the angle?)

Also, Al Thomas is grainy and out-of-focus. But look at the guy standing behind LBJ, in front of the door. Sharp and in focus, right? Al might be winking there, or it might just have been drawn in that way. Compare this version of the picture to the one at the top, which has been obviously retouched, brightened, and the artifacts removed. In that picture, the closed eye is much clearer. And yet it doesn’t look like a wink to me. When you wink, you usually have to kind of strain your eye. But here it just looks like a blink. So they might have pasted in a  picture of him with his eye closed here. Or it could have been painted over. It was faked to tie into the conspiracy theory that LBJ and Thomas were co-conspirators. That was one of the narratives they were pushing, or would later push. And this fauxto was then used as supporting evidence.

It’s not entirely clear how much the fauxtos are faked. It might be that they took some pictures inside Air Force One with the lights on and off and pasted in a bunch of people. That’s the most likely. Or they might have taken pictures of some people standing around inside Air Force One with the lights on and off and later pasted in the principles. Or maybe it was just Jackie that needed to be added to the scene, to reinforce the assumption that he really died and here we have proof in the form of his grief-stricken widow on Air Force One later in the day. Maybe this isn’t even Airforce One. Maybe it’s a movie set at the Lookout Mountain studios. Who the hell knows?

The fact that these photos were faked offers even more evidence that the JFK assassination was a hoax. I won’t get into the evidence for that here, but you can read more about that here, here, and here. So if they fake-killed JFK, then they had to have a fake swearing-in ceremony for LBJ as the new President. Or even if the swearing-in was real, they needed to produce some photos of the event that would feed into the narratives they were pushing (the president really died) or would later push (LBJ and Thomas were co-conspirators).

11 thoughts on “One of the Most Fake Photos of All Time: The LBJ Swearing-In Ceremony

  1. I question whether Jackie would need (or want), to be there, under the supposed circumstances.
    Doesn’t it seem ludicrous to ask the first lady, who just went through the most horrifying event imaginable, to stand in for a photo op, just hours later?
    Perhaps she needed to appear to be there, to inspire confidence in LBJ as our new “leader?”
    Great work deconstructing this photo, Daddieuhoh.
    At this point, I doubt any heavily promoted photograph is untampered with.

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    1. Thanks. Yes I agree completely with your statement. But it’s so much more dramatic to paste her in here. You might be right about the inspiration. But it also adds to the drama of the whole event. And to see his apparently grieving widow here also hammers into the psyche the notion that JFK was really killed.

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    2. I was not quite 13 at the time and recall (because I thought it was really mean) that LBJ insisted that Jackie be present for his swearing in. I’ll do a bit of research and see if I can find any proof of that.
      Great post daddieuhoh!

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    3. “I question whether Jackie would need (or want), to be there,…” Indeed. I haven’t seen any fauxtos of the swearing-in ceremonies for Andrew Johnson or Gerald Ford, but I’m fairly certain that Mary Todd Lincoln chose not to attend the former and that Pat Nixon skipped the latter!

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  2. Looking over the photos at the JFK site, people seem to vanish and reappear at random intervals- The guy in the costume shop grade military uniform is the worst such offender- And the tables…where did they run off to?
    I could spend years on that site but thanks for posting the link, Dad, because that is my final word on it all- I’ll let you guys have at it-

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  3. I have seen the video of Thomas winking at LBJ. I have been searching for the last couple of years to find out who the person I seen in the video winking was. Today my search ended. I had not known that this has been a controversy for years. I saw the film on Netflix that had the “wink” and when I did I about came out of my chair and knew in my heart that Thomas knew something. The “wink” is there in full motion. I cannot tell you the name of the film and I have spent the past few hours looking for it now that I know the name of the winker. It is somewhere, I have seen it. This is very personal to me because on Sept 26, 1963 I, as a seven year old boy, shook hands with President Kennedy in Great Falls Montana.

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  4. Couldn’t quite make it through your entire post without wanting to point out that issues regarding lighting, graining, focus issues and image artefacts are all products of a cameraman having to make do with what he had at the time. Cecil Stoughton had a Contax Rangefinder camera.

    I’d firstly like to contend that the lights being turned on and off are likely a result of attempting to get a useful image for posterity.

    You’ll notice that the image with the highest contrast is also the one suffering from the worst focal, contrast, sharpness and grain issues. This is because Cecil would have had to close the aperture on his Contax in order to compensate for the increased light exposure.

    There is a triangle to taking the perfect picture, with the result being a mix of the aperture, the film speed (ISO) and the shutter speed.

    Stoughton would not have been able to change;
    1. the ISO of the film in his camera. It is likely that it was a high ISO number (400+) given Stoughton was meant to be photographing Kennedy outside in the Texas sunshine.

    In any case, he would have zero time DURING the inauguration to change film rolls.

    he would not be able to adjust the cameras shutter speed because this would have resulted in the majority of subjects in the frame being blurred. I believe Stoughton was shooting from a standing position and wasn’t able to use a tripod.

    The image you believe is fake has all these issues. It’s got high contrast, major graining and film artefacts due to extremely high exposure from the lights to be compensated against, with limited depth of field as a result, and Albert Thomas is out of focus because his wink is literally movement. Maybe he bobbed his head at the same time.

    The fact you mention no details of the camera, aperture, film, exposure, graining or contrast blah blah blah in ANY of your “analysis” does make me wonder if you can be quite so sure it’s a fake.

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  5. The two photos are different shots. Cecil shot several very quickly. It seems obvious to me that these are not doctored photos. They are different photos.

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  6. Sinister means, mysterious and at the same time threatening.

    I agree with Jade, the photo`s are from different shots. Two identical serie of shots, scenes were taken.

    In those days you could only see the photo as it was developped in the dark room. So they often took series of photos with different set-ups to see what become the best. Thats why there are two sets of photos.

    If you save the pictures from the library and open them in the same direction, you can see that there are two scenes taken. One with the lights off and one with the lights on. Photo JFKWHP-ST-1A-5-63 is taken without flash, JFKWHP-ST-1A-6-63 with flash. After that probably the photographer decided to turn the lights on for best results.

    The ‘thick white line on the top left of his head’ is caused by grease in his hair. If you open the photo in big size you can see that the structure is the same as in the right of his hair.

    So why ‘sinister’ ? If you look at photo JFKWHP-ST-1A-7-63 Albert Thomas looks something like ‘you`re not president yet’. After the wink photo JFKWHP-ST-1A-20-63, LBJ is president.

    I think two cameras were used. The first photos without the light have the best resolution and have bright lightening effects without flash. After the flash used, the photographer realised that there must be more light because of the dark effect into the photos. Hes a professional.

    The photographer took also another photo with another camera, because there is a hair on his lens. That became then the Wink photo. Albert Thomas thought he could give a wink without anybody noticing, because the photographer took his camera down, but suddenly took another camera and made the picture of the wink, wich made it sinister.

    With kind regards,

    Erik
    Erik

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